It's what's inside that counts.
May 29, 2009 7:53 PM   Subscribe

I just had an MRI and MRA in response to these issues, and the radiologist's report should be relayed to me in a day or two. I've already had one normal CT scan. I received a copy of all the images from this scan - should I look at them?

On the one hand, I have no medical training and if I'm not sure what if anything I could glean from looking. On the other hand, there is a ton of reference material on the web and I feel like I could at least reassure myself that there are no gross structural defects or abnormalities. Then again, if there were anything "obvious" it would have been seen on the CT, right?

If I do decide to look, what should I look for?
posted by elektrotechnicus to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can look, but without training, even if you see something I wouldn't worry.

Even the people who take the scans and work with them on a daily basis aren't qualified to tell you what's there. That's the reason people go to medical school.

I wouldn't vest much in the looking. Look if you're curious, but honestly, until you get to sit with your doctors they won't mean much (even with online research).

If you're the type of person that will get freaked out by any anomalies I would suggest not looking, since everyone has many such things.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:59 PM on May 29, 2009

I sincerely hope you are kidding--I am having difficulty imagining some of the responses to your question--not only are most of us not physicians but I don't know if there is a radiologist in the group--there is (was) a neurologist. Searching the web seems like a particularly bad idea in this situation. I say the following without sarcasm or any intent to dismiss or minimize your anxiety--but I think you should look for a therapist after receiving, what I hope, are reassuring findings. The linked post, and this and other posts, can certainly be read to suggest a level of anxiety about your health that may be problematic. I would hope that you discuss all of this with your physician and/or your physician discusses it with you. I do hope all of your immediate fears are unfounded and can be set aside
posted by rmhsinc at 8:11 PM on May 29, 2009

Sure, look away.

You won't glean anything from it unless you've had like 12 years of medical school, but go ahead. I know I asked for my MRI scans and looked at them. They make great animated GIFs.
posted by sanka at 8:21 PM on May 29, 2009

Get ready to shit yourself.

Look, I'm trying to think of a reason you would have in your possession a copy of a brain CT that shows anything of concern that hasn't been conveyed to you by your physician. CT, and much moreso MRI, show human tissue in extreme detail. Radiologists sit in a darkened room and comment on every detail from a scan in painstaking detail. Then they pronounce it basically normal, or sometimes not. But all kinds of stuff starts to go on as you age that shows up on these scans. Old scarring from injury, cortical atrophy from routine aging, etc. So there's a good chance if you look you'll also want to book a separate appointment to have all the "normal" stuff explained to you.

It can be very anxiety provoking to read copies of your own scans. I went through it several times and found myself questioning the doctors caring for me even though I knew I was completely wrong.

On the flip side it's your info and your brain. It might be fun.
posted by docpops at 8:48 PM on May 29, 2009

Look, but do not research. Everyone's brain looks mushy and weird, and the only thing a 2-hour MRI-reading course on the internet will teach you is basic anatomy and how to seriously freak yourself out. Open it up and just appreciate how awesome your brain is, and maybe send a copy to all your detractors as definitive proof that you have one. I sent mine to my parents.
posted by The White Hat at 8:51 PM on May 29, 2009

I look at brains for a living, and I love it. I've definitely looked at my own brain. If you're just curious about what's inside your head, go ahead and look at your brain.

However, if you're looking because the suspense of waiting to hear from the radiologist about a condition that's causing you a great deal of distress, it's probably a bad idea. Don't try to diagnose yourself. What would you even compare your scans to to see if there's something wrong? If the reason you want to look is to try to get a head start on the doctors, I'd avoid it.

White Hat is totally on point.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:24 PM on May 29, 2009

What everyone else said.

With respect to improving your health, your looking at those MRI images may be useless at best and may even cause you unneeded distress. With respect to satisfying your curiosity, sure, take a look.
posted by drpynchon at 9:46 PM on May 29, 2009

Yes, look. I think it's important to be engaged in your own medical treatment, even if all you can do is ask "What's that thing?" I wouldn't recommend trying to diagnose yourself but looking and being curious is a good thing.
posted by chairface at 9:50 PM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: I looked. Comparing side by side with this, despite warnings, was educational and soothing. The rotatable view of my brain's vasculature was pretty sweet.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 10:37 PM on May 29, 2009

Before the technician burned a cd with my MRI images, he gave the image a second, quick look. I had the impression that if there'd been, say, a massive obvious tumor, he wouldn't have let me spend four days alone with the images before talking to the doctor.
posted by ecsh at 1:05 AM on May 30, 2009

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